MANILA – Philippine-born Korean Jasmine Lee won a seat for proportional representation at the 19th Korean National Assembly during the general elections held on April 11, the Philippine embassy in Seoul said Thursday.
The 35-year-old Lee, a widow of a Korean, is the first parliamentarian from the growing immigrant community of South Korea.
Lee ran under the ruling Saenuri (New Frontier) Party, formerly known as the Grand National Party. Saenuri won 25 out of a total of 54 seats for party list representatives. Lee was number 15 on the list.
The ruling Saenuri party also grabbed the majority votes for the 300 parliamentary seats by winning 152 seats.
“We are all very proud that a full-blooded Filipino is being given the opportunity to be a member of the Korean Parliament,” Vice President Jejomar Binay said during his address to Filipino community leaders in South Korea on March 25 where Lee was a special guest.
“It shows that Korea is prepared to extend the opportunity to become a public servant even to those who were not born here,” Binay said.
“Ms. Lee has once again made Filipinos in Korea proud in her latest string of achievements as a naturalized Korean. She has distinguished herself as an ardent advocate of multiculturalism in Korean society,” Ambassador Luis Cruz said in a statement from the embassy.
“We hope that she will continue to promote the rights and welfare of the 1.2 million growing immigrant community in Korea,” he added.
Lee grew up in Davao and met her future husband Lee Dong-ho in 1994 when she was a college freshman majoring in Biology at the Ateneo de Davao University. They got married in April 1995, and subsequently moved to Korea. They have two children. She became a Korean citizen in 1998.
Tragedy struck the family, however, when her husband died of heart attack two years ago while rescuing his daughter who was caught in a whirlpool in a mountain stream in Okcheon-dong, Gangwon province while on a family vacation.
Since 2006, Lee has appeared as a panelist on the KBS television program ”Love in Asia.” Last year, she essayed the role of the mother of the lead actor in the highly acclaimed Korean movie “Wandeuki” (English title: Punch) which drew 5.3 million viewers.
In January of this year, she received the Korea Image Millstone Award, which is given to people who successfully blended into the Korean society and helped it become a better place. She regularly gives lectures about multiculturalism in Korea for teachers and student leaders. She is the Secretary General of Waterdrop, a charity formed by foreign spouses of Koreans.